11 Little-Known Facts about Mexico

Posted Mar 22, by Jose Duarte

Mexico threatened to stop buying US corn if the US didn’t buy their avocados!

The North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA for short, went into effect in 1994. After it’d been passed, Mexico tried to export their avocados to the U.S. and the U.S. government resisted. The government claimed that fruit flies would enter with the avocados and destroy California crops.

The Mexican government invited USDA inspectors to come to Mexico and check for themselves, but the U.S. government declined. So, the Mexican government countered with offering to only sell their avocados to the northeastern U.S. states in the winter, because fruit flies can’t withstand that level of cold.

The U.S. government drew back again, but ended up complying when Mexico started setting up barriers for purchasing U.S. corn. Today, Mexican avocados are allowed in all 50 U.S. states, only because USDA inspectors eventually did go down and check millions of fruit and found no problems. Today, Chile, Peru, and Mexico import avocados to the U.S.

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Mexico and Luxembourg are the only two countries in the world that are spelled with the letter X.
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\"\" Mexico has 60 languages.

However, only 6% of the population can speak any of these indigenous languages. The Spanish colonizers forced the Spanish language to be the official language of Mexico. It wasn’t until the 1990s that Mexico accept the indigenous languages as official languages for the country. Mexican legal documents can now be written in any of the 60 languages!

Read more about Mexican languages here.

The government of Mexico imposes fines for individuals who perform their national anthem incorrectly.

This policy also applies to other patriotic symbols such as the Mexican flag and national seal. A recent example of this precedent in action occurred back in October at a soccer match in Guadalajara against Monterrey. Singer Guadalupe Madrigal confused some lyrics in the Mexican national anthem. She didn\'t do so intentionally and she apologized.

After reviewing Madrigal's financial situation, the government chose to fine her $40 - but she could have been subject to potential fines of up to $880! (The whole story)

According to the government the fine was to ensure "the necessary respect that patriotic symbols deserve.\" Too bad the U.S. government couldn\'t fine Roseanne Barr for her version of the national anthem.

Mexico City sinks several inches annually.

The city itself drops between 0.2 and 1.3 feet per year! Because Mexico City has one of the world's largest metropolitan areas, there is an extremely high demand for water.

70% of this water comes from the groundwater beneath the city. But it is being extracted much faster than it can be naturally replaced.

This drastic water deficit has severely weakened the ground upon which the city rests, causing the entire Mexican capital to sink.
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An underground river 95 miles long flows beneath Mexico.

The river twists between a lengthy series of limestone caves below Mexico\'s Yucatán Peninsula. A pair of European divers spent four years exploring these caverns and discovered that the second and third largest Mexican cave systems actually link up! (source)

The piñata was invented in China!

 Although the piñata is most commonly associated with Mexico, it is actually believed to have originated in China! It was most commonly in the shape of a cow or ox and almost exclusively used for New Years celebrations. The piñata was originally not filled with candy, but with seeds to ensure a good climate for the new year’s growing season.

Once the festivities began, the piñata would be struck until the seeds fell, and once it was empty the seeds would be burnt and the ashes kept, ensuring good luck. When exactly did the piñata become Mexican? It actually took several steps.

Piñatas arrived in Europe in the 1300’s and were used for Lenten celebrations, although these were different from their Chinese cousins. They were simply clay pots that were decorated and got their name from the Italian word, “pignatta” meaning “fragile pot.”

The piñata arrived in Mexico in the 16th century. Here the monks from Spain introduced the custom, yet adopted a similar Aztec tradition of covering the eyes of the one making an offering to a god. Thus, the blindfold was introduced, and since then not a whole lot has changed!

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Cinco de Mayo is actually an American-started Holiday!

This is according to new research by Professor David Hayes-Bautista says the holiday owes as much to the United States as it does to Mexico. In a new book, he claims that the holiday was created by Latinos in the West during the Civil War. He found this while poring over newspapers of the 1800s while he was working on another research project.

So what's the story of Cinco de Mayo? What Prof. Hayes-Bautista found was that US Latinos during the Civil War were sympathetic towards the Union, because they believed in freedom against slavery. At around the same time, the French army, who supported the Confederates, was trying to conquer Mexico and impose a monarchy. On a May 5th, the Mexican Army had a great victory against the French. Newspapers in California and Oregon used this victory as a rallying cry and a sign that their side was going to win both wars - against the French and against Confederates.

The general sentiment among Latinos in the US was more about the "good" guys beating the "bad" guys, rather than the French army suffering defeat. Their victory was a rallying cry for so-called patriotic Mexican juntas, who would celebrate monthly parades and give speeches every Cinco the Mayo. The years of 1862 to 1867 were the formative years in which Cinco de Mayo was cemented in public memory.

The truth is, Prof. Hayes-Bautista says, that Cinco the Mayo has now joined the ranks of other big commercial holidays, where big beer companies take advantage of a day to sell all the imported drink that they can manage to get out to the public. But now you know, the holiday you're celebrating is anything but imported, and it hasn't just been brought to the US recently. Cinco de Mayo is as American as hardshell tacos.

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The first Spaniard to meet Mesoamericans died fighting for his adopted homeland-against Spain!

Little is known about the early life of Gonzalo Guerrero, but we do know he was a sailor from Palos, Spain who shipwrecked along the Yucatan Peninsula. He was captured by local Mayans and made a slave. 

After he bought his freedom, he became a respected warrior under the Mayans and raised three of the first mestizo children in Mexico. Mestizo refers to the mixed race of a person. Normally the person is of a native and European mixture. Guerrero became loyal to the Mayans. 

He is said to have told them that the Spaniards would suffer death like other men. He led the Maya campaigns against Cortes and his lieutenants and the Panamanian governor. 

One of Cortes’ lieutenant’s orders was to capture Guerrero. He ended up being killed in a battle fighting the Spaniards for the sake of the Mayan people that he had grown to love and call his adopted homeland. 

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Wisdom teeth fail to appear in nearly 100% of indigenous Mexicans

Wisdom teeth, like the appendix, are vestigial, meaning that they have lost their purpose as we evolved from our larger-jawed ancestors. (an article listing different vestigial organs can be found here)

However, there are genes that determine whether we grow wisdom teeth. The \"agenesis\" (failure to develop) of wisdom teeth can is common in certain populations and very rare in others. The frequency of agenesis in Tasmania is nearly 0%, while among the indigenous Mexican population it is nearly 100%. (According to this study).

At its peak, Tenochtitlan was one of the largest cities in the world, even larger than London at the time!

Tenochtitlan was the capital city of the Aztec civilization. They saw a vision in the Lake Texcoco that is now immortalized in the Mexican flag by a hawk eating a snake. It was there that they built their city. 

Their culture thrived and they began to dominate other tribes. The city grew and became the largest and most powerful in Mesoamerica. Commercial routes were built to the city from places as far away as the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.

Some even think it went all the way to the Incan Empire. After a flood came on Lake Texcoco, the city was rebuilt. The ruler, Ahuitzotl, had the city rebuilt in a way that made it one of the grandest ever in Mesoamerica. 

The most common estimates say that over 200,000 people lived in Tenochtitlan. Only Paris, Venice, and Constantinople were thought to be larger than Tenochtitlan in 1519 when Hernan Cortes arrived to the city. 

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